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Toxic parts

Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[1].

Edible uses


Leaves - raw or cooked[2][3][4][5][6][7]. They make a thirst-quenching on their own, or can be added to salads, used as a potherb or pureed and used in soups[8]. A delicious lemon-like flavour, liked by most people who try them, they can be rather overpowering in quantity and are more generally used as a flavouring in mixed salads[K]. The leaves can also be dried for later use[9]. The leaves can be available all through the winter, especially in mild weather or if a little protection is given to the plants[K]. The leaves should be used sparingly in the diet[10][11], see the notes on toxicity above.

Flowers - cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish[8]. Root - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and made into noodles[12]. Seed - raw or cooked[13]. Ground into a powder and mixed with other flours to make bread[8]. The seed is easy to harvest, but is rather small and fiddly to use[K].

The juice of the leaves can be used as a curdling agent for milks[3][8].

Unknown part



Material uses

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant[14].

A grey-blue dye is obtained from the leaves and stems[15]. An infusion of the stems is used as a polish for bamboo and wicker furniture and also for silver[16][1].

The juice of the plant removes stains from linen[17] and also ink stains (but not ball-point ink) from white material[16][1]. It is sometimes sold as 'essential salt of lemon'[3].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The fresh or dried leaves are astringent, diuretic, laxative and refrigerant[3][5][17][11][1]. They are used to make a cooling drink in the treatment of fevers and are especially useful in the treatment of scurvy[3]. The leaf juice, mixed with fumitory, has been used as a cure for itchy skin and ringworm[3].

An infusion of the root is astringent, diuretic and haemostatic[3][5][17][11][18]. It has been used in the treatment of jaundice, gravel and kidney stones[3]. Both the roots and the seeds have been used to stem haemorrhages[3]. A paste of the root is applied to set dislocated bones[19]. The plant is depurative and stomachic[5][17][11][18].

A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[10]. It is used in the treatment of spasms and skin ailments[10].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - sow spring in situ. Leaves can be harvested within 8 weeks from sowing. Division in spring. Division is very simple at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Rumex acetosa. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


A very easily grown and tolerant plant, it succeeds in most soils[20], preferring a moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position[21]. Shade tolerant[9]. Established plants are tolerant of considerable neglect, surviving even in dense weed growth[K].

Sorrel has been used since ancient times as a food and medicinal plant[22]. It is still occasionally cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties[8]. The plant stops producing leaves when it flowers in the summer, regrowing after the seed has set. Plants also usually die down in the winter. Cutting down the flowering stem will encourage the growth of fresh young leaves[3]. 'Blonde de Lyon' has large, only slightly acid leaves and is much less likely to flower than the type[21]. This means that the leaves of this cultivar are often available all through the summer and are often also produced throughout the winter, especially if the winter is mild[200, K]. A food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterfly, it is a good plant to grow in the spring meadow[23].

Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Rumex acetosa. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Rumex acetosa.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Rumex acetosa
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

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    "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

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    "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Nordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

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    1. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    2. ? 2.02.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    3. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    4. ? 4.04.1 Mabey. R. Food for Free. Collins ISBN 0-00-219060-5 (1974-00-00)
    5. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-33545-3 (1975-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press ISBN 0-89815-041-8 ()
    8. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    9. ? Loewenfeld. C. and Back. P. Britain's Wild Larder. David and Charles ISBN 0-7153-7971-2 ()
    10. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
    11. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
    13. ? 13.013.1 Schofield. J. J. Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest. ()
    14. ? 14.014.1 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.1 Coon. N. The Dictionary of Useful Plants. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-090-x (1975-00-00)
    16. ? De. Bray. L. The Wild Garden. ()
    17. ? Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-262-7 (1979-00-00)
    18. ? Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
    19. ? 19.019.1 Manandhar. N. P. Plants and People of Nepal Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-527-6 (2002-00-00)
    20. ? Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant. Blackie and Son. (1878-00-00)
    21. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    22. ? Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
    23. ? Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden. ()
    24. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)

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    Facts about "Rumex acetosa"RDF feed
    Article is incompleteYes +
    Article requires citationsNo +
    Article requires cleanupYes +
    Belongs to familyPolygonaceae +
    Belongs to genusRumex +
    Has binomial nameRumex acetosa +
    Has common nameSorrel +
    Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
    Has edible partUnknown part +, Flowers +, Leaves +, Root + and Seed +
    Has edible useCurdling agent + and Unknown use +
    Has fertility typeSelf sterile + and Wind +
    Has flowers of typeDioecious +
    Has hardiness zone3 +
    Has imageNordens flora Rumex acetosa.jpg +
    Has lifecycle typePerennial +
    Has material partUnknown part +
    Has material useCleanser +, Dye + and Polish +
    Has mature height0.6 +
    Has mature width0.3 +
    Has medicinal partUnknown part +
    Has medicinal useAnthelmintic +, Antiscorbutic +, Astringent +, Depurative +, Diuretic +, Febrifuge +, Homeopathy +, Laxative +, Refrigerant + and Stomachic +
    Has primary imageNordens_flora_Rumex_acetosa.jpg +
    Has search namerumex acetosa + and sorrel +
    Has shade toleranceLight shade +
    Has soil ph preferenceVery acid +, Acid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
    Has soil texture preferenceSandy +, Loamy + and Clay +
    Has sun preferenceFull sun +
    Has taxonomic rankSpecies +
    Has taxonomy nameRumex acetosa +
    Has water requirementsmoderate +
    Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
    PFAF cultivation notes migratedNo +
    PFAF edible use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF material use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF medicinal use notes migratedNo +
    PFAF propagation notes migratedNo +
    PFAF toxicity notes migratedNo +
    Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
    Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +
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